Andy's happy return raises Town hopes

Michael Bailey Lowestoft Town goalkeeper Andy Reynolds had a much less painful return to Whitley Bay compared to last year - and fancies his team-mates to book another Wembley final on Saturday.

Michael Bailey

Lowestoft Town goalkeeper Andy Reynolds had a much less painful return to Whitley Bay compared to last year - and fancies his team-mates to book another Wembley final on Saturday.

The 21-year-old stopper dislocated his hip three times on the Hillheads pitch last season after an injury from the first leg at Crown Meadow, and struggled through heroically as Whitley Bay tried and ultimately failed to pip Lowestoft to the Vase final.

This time round Reynolds was fully fit and called into action on a couple of occasions in Saturday's first leg of this year's semi-final rematch, doing superbly well to tip over Chris Moore's dipping effort.

"It was different being back here and being able to play," said Reynolds. "I don't think I got any less stick for it but it's nice being able to contribute a little bit today, in the bits I did."

Reynolds could do little to prevent Paul Chow's header or Lee Kerr's spot kick as Whitley looked for revenge.

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However, Jamie Godbold's superbly executed late volley left Lowestoft with only a 2-1 deficit to overturn at Crown Meadow on Saturday, and the classy Blues' keeper cannot wait for the return leg in front of a bumper home crowd - possibly something to rival the 2,907 fans which packed into Hillheads.

"Tremendous, and I think it will probably be the same again next week, and I should think a couple hundred more will now turn up because it is so close," said Reynolds.

"It's a lot different to the first leg last year, when it looked almost cut and dried, but I think we need as many supporters turning up as we can get and really reverse it on them, and play at the same tempo we have for the first half today. I should think we'll fancy it."

Reynolds is hoping history repeats itself and Lowestoft make a second successive appearance at Wembley for a Vase final - and he believes a Godbold strike could once again prove crucial.

"Quite possibly; I think we're in a strong position," said the Town stopper. "Looking at their lads dropping down with cramp and things like that, we were ready to go again come the end of the game.

"Everyone is really, really confident and if we get through next week we'll probably look at that goal as a turning point for us.

"We said before the game, we knew the jobs we had to do. We knew if we played at a good tempo they'd struggle to live with us and for the first 45 minutes they did, and even to be fair for the most part of the game, they've struggled to live with us, the tempo we've played at.

"They played the conditions fairly well but any team that plays at home in cup competitions, they've got an advantage. They know the pitch, they know little bobbles.

"They got fairly fortunate I feel with both goals, but then you do need that little bit of luck in the cup as well."

Blues joint manager Ady Gallagher also feels his side's higher fitness levels could help see them through on Saturday, as the teams battle on the wide expanses at Crown Meadow.

"They narrowed the pitch here to presumably accommodate the throw, and the Meadow's a bit bigger than this, so it'll be interesting next week whether they have got the legs to survive," said Gallagher. "All jokes aside, we've got to turn up next week and put in a solid performance. But we've certainly still got a chance and we're still in the game."

And the Town boss is not about to start worrying about one-goal deficits - something he admits he probably would have taken before the game, and certainly after Carl Poppy's red card.

"I think we played really well. We've certainly played worse and won games this year," said Gallagher. "You can't write teams off, these are a good side, there's no doubt about that, but we're also a good side and I think if someone would have said before we left, 'would you take a 1-0 to come back?' probably we would.

"Obviously you want to try and do well in your game, but I think we probably would've taken that, and at 2-0 down and 10 men, then you're worried about conceding anymore because then you really could be out of the tie.

"But our boys were fantastic. They rallied, we looked really strong in the last 10, 15 minutes of the game, created and was unlucky not to even get a draw really.

"Certainly it will be full at the Meadow, I'm certain of that. I think that people who were at Whitley are going to go back and talk about the game saying we did really well, we did the town proud without quite getting the result we wanted and there's a lot of hunger in the dressing room to put that right next week."